Although mainly known for its masses of holiday villas and brash south coast resorts, the Algarve boasts a surprising wealth of natural landscapes that quickly lead more adventurous visitors off the well-trodden tourist trail.
With soaring cliffs, sea caves, golden beaches, and scenic bays, the region is a paradise for active travellers, especially along the refreshingly undeveloped west coast.
Looking for offbeat outdoor adventures in the Algarve? Here’s our pick of 5 of the best:
Hike to the Ponta da Piedade
Where: South Coast
Length: 6km (4 mi) round trip
Average trip time: 2.5h
Best for: Dramatic coastline views
The limestone cliffs of the Ponta da Piedade headland are one of the most spectacular natural sights in the Algarve. Their dramatic architecture, chiselled by thousands of years of raging seas, consists of sea pillars, towering rock arches and hidden caves and can only truly be appreciated by descending from the cliff-top to the beach below.
The coastal trail, made up of numerous clifftop footpaths, wends its way along the coast and there is a set of stairs that lead to one of the most picturesque coves which has a scenic boardwalk.
Book an Algarve villa rental in nearby Lagos, a historic city with a rich seafaring history, and further explore the sweeping headland views and lighthouse as well as its quaint walled old town.
Go rock climbing and abseiling in the Monchique Mountains
Where: Western Algarve
Average trip time: 4-5h
Best for: Outdoor adventures
Famous for its accessible trails, wild and varied plant life, and natural hot pools with medicinal waters, the Monchique Mountains offer adrenaline junkies a chance to get their fix. Combining hiking, rock climbing, abseiling, mountain biking, and canoeing the Monchique Challenge is a 5-hour adventure that takes you through one of the region’s best natural landscapes.
Hike the route of the Seven Suspended Valleys
Where: Lagoa, Western Algarve
Length: 12km (7.5 mi) round trip
Average trip time: 6h round trip
Best for: Spectacular beaches and ocean views
Often described as one of the best hikes in Europe, the scenic route of the Seven Suspended Valleys Trail runs from Praia da Marinha in the east to Praia de Vale Centeanes in the west. Sights include the Alfanzina lighthouse, the Benagil and Carvalho beaches, as well as numerous sinkholes, sea caves and breath-taking coastal views of limestone cliffs and the azure Atlantic.
After your hike retreat to the picturesque town of Carvoeiro which boasts traditional whitewashed properties that overlook a spectacular cove with a sandy beach below. On the outskirts of this picturesque village, you’ll find a number of high-end villa rentals with ocean views.
Stand up paddle to the Benagil Cave
Where: South Coast
Average trip time: 2h
Best for: Ocean adventures
On the southern coast of the Algarve, between the popular tourist destinations of Praia do Carvoeiro and Armação de Pêra sits Benagil, a small fishing village that’s a favourite with locals looking to enjoy the warm summer weather on the beach or to explore the caves and rock formations. The most notable is the Benagli Sea Cave which can be accessed from the main beach in just a few minutes on a SUP.
Scuba dive to shipwrecks off the coast of Faro
Average trip time: 3h
Best for: Underwater adventures
As one of the first nations to navigate the high seas the Portuguese have a rich maritime history which sadly includes several shipwrecks along its coastline. From the Algarve’s southernmost city, Faro, you can reach a number of the best wreck dives in Portugal including the B-24 Liberator Bomber from the USA that crashed in 1943, during World War II (sitting at a depth of 18 metres) and the Titan, a sunken barge and its crane which was sunk in 1995 to form an artificial reef in around 23 metres of water.
READ MORE EUROPEAN TRAVEL GUIDES FROM WANDERLUSTERS